How to Hold Accountable Conversations

“If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.”


Conversations. We have them all the time. With family, colleagues, friends, our dog—even ourselves. They’ve been taking place since the dawn of time. Conversing with others probably began like this:

Adam: “Why did you do that!? I told you not to eat from the forbidden tree! I can’t believe you would listen to that serpent’s lies! If you’d had a mother, you’d probably be just like her!!!”

Eve: “You did it, too! And why didn’t you kill that snake? You told me weeks ago you’d handle it. It wasn’t my fault. Why can’t you be more like your father???”

Sound familiar?

In recent years, there’s been a movement in the corporate world toward making conversations not only healthy but “fierce” and “crucial.”

I say let’s use QBQ! and make them accountable. Here’s how an “Accountable Conversation” would go:

Manager: “Well, your results in this area are off. How can I be a better coach for you?”

Employee: “Yes, I struggled on that project. What can I do to learn, grow, and change?”

Sure beats this Blame Exchange:

Manager: “When will you start performing? Why aren’t you more motivated!?”

Employee: “Why didn’t you train me? You never spend any time coaching me!”

workforce blame

If you’ve read QBQ!, Flipping the Switch, or Parenting the QBQ Way, experienced one of our QBQ! speakers, or been through our training program, you know that a better question—The Question Behind the Question—begins with “What” or “How” and contains the personal pronoun “I.” Questions built like this keep us out of victim thinking and finger-pointing.

But QBQs also have a spirit that shapes our attitude and approach to communicating and conversing. When two people talk with each other in the spirit of QBQ!, their exchange is under girded by …

  • Personal accountability and ownership
  • Humility and contrition
  • Desire to learn and change oneself
  • Forgiveness and grace
  • Patience and understanding

Imagine how using the QBQ! Spirit would’ve affected one of the world’s first conversations! Let’s listen in:

Adam: “You know, the whole fruit tree thing was my fault. I told you I’d get rid of the snake and chop down that tree, but I didn’t. I need to follow through on my commitments. I’m sorry.”

Eve: “I always knew that talking to the serpent was risky, but I just wasn’t thinking. I need to do a better job of disciplining myself. I’m sorry, too.”

If that Accountable Conversation had taken place—maybe our world would be a better place!

Of course, employing the QBQ! Spirit in our conversations today can make our personal world better, too.

For discussion:
Is there someone you need to hold an Accountable Conversation with? What will be the benefit? When will you do it? 

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22 Responses

  1. I really enjoyed reading about holding accountable conversations. Your example is a great way to respond during a quarterly review or after a bad result. Definitely something to keep in mind.

  2. The most important part of a conversation is listening. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should be listening twice as much as talking. All parties engage in a conversation has the responsiblity to check for understanding both for what we say and what was said.

    “Good stuff” Thank you for your messages!

  3. I cannot wait to share this with my wife, she will learn so much from it and then work better with me.

    OOPS!!!! I guess I need to reread this as I see it is up to me!!!!

    Great post (I hope you will see the humor in the first sentence.

  4. Great reminder for me. I’ve had two conversations this past week where I found myself taking ownership of my part in a problem, taking the blame. It helped calm the situation but the other party took no ownership at all. I didn’t expect them to, but still frustrating.

  5. Thanks so much for this. I have started a coaching session with the book QBQ (my favorite) but I am struggling with one of my employees. This is great information for me. God just seems to provide at the right time.

  6. Taking the responsibility for my part in any situation has gained respect from family and co-workers in my life. It takes stress out of life because it simplifies situations and helps us keep moving.

  7. I really think every business owner needs to buy your book for every employee.
    I went to loan my copy to my son who just turned 18, and its missing from my collection.
    I am going to order another copy and get my son one as a grad gift. A must read for every teen that is leaving the nest to pursue any venture when they become adults!

  8. John –One time while facilitating QBQ!, I reached the point where you talk about confronting a situation, taking an action or talking to someone which might be uncomfortable. I had just challenged the group to think about a situation they needed to address and privately resolve to take action when I was the one with the epiphany. At this company there was a situation between a heavy-handed manager and his people and where the manager was a long-time friend of the CEO. I had previously decided that (despite the background) I should talk to the CEO. Suddenly, I knew that I should be talking to the manager as well. I never employed QBQ!s so much in one day, but things went well and I thank you for that.

  9. I just love the principle behind this and the specific examples. “Holding Accountable” means we start with ourselves, and then draw others into the conversation to see how we can enrich the situation for everyone to benefit.

    Love this and thank you for the reminders!

  10. Glad to read this one. I struggle with people who claim to use QBQ but really, quite frankly, aren’t. I knew it wasn’t my ‘place’ to point it out, but I needed to be able to quickly get what I need in a conversation without escalating. I can use this information today! (Of course, I was missing the part about asking how I could have done things differently… old habits I suppose)

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